You’ve probably heard all about great morning routines that can help you start your day off on the right foot. But what you don’t hear about as much are the evening routines that can ensure that you are ready for and follow through with that productive morning.
Bookending your day with solid morning and evening routines is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, both physically and mentally. They can help you boost your focus, memory and even creativity throughout the day and make you more productive in general. Routines can also help you keep your priorities straight, which can also help you to get the most out of your day.
Morning routine suggestions abound: Wake up early. Eat a healthy breakfast. Take a shower. Hit the gym, even for a short while. Meditate. Do stretches for five to 10 minutes. Review the day’s goals and schedule. Start out with either the easiest or hardest task to complete, based on your work preferences.
But what about suggestions for evening routines? Here are 10 evening routines that can help you ensure a more productive morning.
If you work too late into the night, you are preventing yourself from falling asleep fast and from getting thoroughly restful sleep. That means checking emails, writing messages, working on presentations—anything work-related—should be stopped at least two hours before going to bed. You don’t want to be thinking about work up to the moment you are trying to go to sleep.
Give yourself a break from it all, and let yourself unwind properly at the end of the night to avoid burning out, get a better night’s sleep and start your morning off right.
Even just taking a few minutes to review your day can do wonders for your productivity the next morning. Going through what you did and did not do that day can help you establish your goals for the next day and can show you in what areas you excelled or need improvement—all of which can be applied to the following day. Small improvements and adjustments based on this reflection are healthy and promote productivity.
Once you’ve reviewed your day, the next step is to write out a to-do list for the next day. While your tasks and goals are fresh in your mind following your review, this is the best time to write out your list for tomorrow. If you wait until the morning, you might find yourself forgetting something or stressing out while doing it, not to mention taking time away from other more productive activities.
Writing out a to-do list the evening before means you don’t have to figure out everything you need to do at the last minute, and it means you are better prepared to start the morning off right since you know everything you need to do beforehand.
One suggestion is to write out three big things you need to do the next day and two little things. These can be anything from deadlines, meetings and emails to phone calls, errands and appointments—and all that’s in between. Planning this out ahead of time keeps you organized and ready to seize the day from the moment you wake up.
However, don’t make this to-do list too close before bed, as it requires your brain to be active rather than relaxing. Try to get it done before the two hours you set aside for yourself to relax rather than work before bedtime.
Smartphones, tablets and computers emit a blue light, which prevents the release of melatonin in your body. Melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep, should be released at the right time so that you get to sleep quickly each night.
You have two options for stopping the blue light from keeping you up at night. The first, and perhaps better, way is to set a specific time to turn off all blue light devices, generally about two to three hours before you’re planning to go to sleep. You should pick a time and ritualize it so that it becomes a natural part of the routine. Your mind will relax, release melatonin, and be much better prepared to fall asleep when you want to.
Another option, though less convenient, is to wear blue-blocking sunglasses, which can be useful if you absolutely must look at any of these screens before getting some shut-eye. But all in all, simply limiting your exposure to blue light altogether before bed is probably the better idea.
This is a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget if you don’t have an alarm set to go off at a certain time each day or workday. Forgetting to set an alarm could mean sleeping in, and even sleeping in for just a few minutes could wreck the potentially productive start to your morning.
Besides simply setting your alarm, you can be conscious of your sleeping and waking patterns. For example, if you know you hit the snooze button ten times before you actually get out of bed, set your alarm five to 30 minutes or so earlier to prevent you from getting up past the time you had envisioned. It’s normal to feel groggy and love on the snooze button in the morning, but you can still figure out ways around it to keep you on time to begin your morning routine.
Besides water, you’ll want to avoid eating or drinking much of anything at least two hours before going to sleep. Some say that a glass of red wine is fine, as alcohol is conventionally known as a depressant, but the act of drinking itself can actually act as a stimulant, so you don’t want to drink a glass right before bed.
The reason is that if you eat or drink too late in the evening, your body will be up trying to digest the food you’ve just eaten, which can potentially keep you awake longer. Giving your body a few hours to digest dinner and dessert before bed will help you get to sleep faster. Especially avoid anything that can give you short bursts of energy, such as coffee, tea, sodas, fruit, or other desserts.
Who wants to wake up to a messy kitchen or living room? A messy home can make your whole morning feel messier, as you’re surrounded by clutter and dirty dishes that distract you from the more productive aspects of your morning.
Instead, spend even just five to 20 minutes straightening out your home, such as doing the dishes and wiping down the kitchen counters, tidying up the living room, or cleaning off your desk. Waking up to a neat home helps to reduce stress and makes your mornings that much more uplifted.
Remember when you were a kid and you used to either read to yourself or be read to as you were falling asleep? There was a sound reason for this, and that is that reading can help the mind relax by distracting it from the goings on of today and tomorrow. This is particularly true of fiction—just make sure you don’t read anything too stimulating (or work-related).
Poet William Blake suggests, "Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening and sleep at night." This is sound advice to live by.
It’s no fun to pull out your smartphone, tablet or laptop during the day only to find it dead or near-dead, and you can’t use it until you plug it in and let it charge. This can be detrimental to a solid morning routine as it can set you back for whatever time you have to let it charge, and if your alarm is on your phone and your phone dies, you could potentially sleep in accidentally. Or if your mp3 player is dead, you may not have the added benefit of the improved focus that the right music can bring you during the day.
As a general rule, make it part of your routine to remember to plug in all of your electronics that you need the next day. You don’t want any of your gadgets running out of juice when you need them the most, so don’t let something as simple as plugging something into a wall keep you from an optimum morning.
You may have done this when you were a kid but gotten away from it as an adult. Setting your clothes out for the next day is not only one less thing you have to do the next morning, particularly if you don’t wear a uniform and have to decide on work clothes each day. It can also be a motivational tool.
For example, setting out all of your gym clothes and gear can be one first step in the right direction for motivating you to carry out your planned workout, which is a good part of a morning routine to have if you have the time and access.
No matter what you have to do the next morning, having this one step to your morning routine already taken care of is sure to save you time and mental energy that can be applied to more productive activities.